Japan's 1st unmanned cargo vehicle to be launched into space Friday

September 6, 2009 9:57 pm 

TOKYO, Sept. 7 — Japan's first unmanned cargo vehicle for the International Space Station will be launched Friday amid growing public interest as the spacecraft is expected to play a crucial role in transportation after the fleet of reusable U.S. space shuttles is retired next year.

The domestically made HTV single-use vehicle will be carried by an H-2B rocket, which will be used for the first time, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The HTV module — 10 meters long with a diameter of 4.4 meters — will transport around 4.5 tons of materials including freeze-dried food, bread, clothes and shampoo as well as SMILES stratospheric observation equipment for Japan's Kibo laboratory on the ISS.

Waste materials will be loaded on to the vehicle prior to its return and the bulk of the spacecraft is expected to burn up as it reenters the atmosphere.

The launch is scheduled for 2:04 a.m. Friday.

JAXA said that six similar unmanned cargo vehicles are scheduled to follow the first HTV, with one launched every year until 2015.

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. co-developed the H-2B rocket, a successor to the H-2A with enhanced launch capabilities, in order to transport the cargo vehicle, which weighs a maximum of 16.5 tons, into space.

A second main engine and an expanded fuel tank were added, allowing the rocket to carry 1.7 times more fuel than the H-2A. (PNA/Kyodo)

ALM/ebp

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